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Ceturtdiena 27.02.2020 | Name days: Līva, Līvija, Andra

State Audit: reform for re-socialization of convicts has not achieved its goal

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUThe approach adopted in Latvia ten years ago for re-socialization of ex-convicts has not accomplished its goals and most of the ex-convicts tend to return to prison again, as concluded in a report from the State Audit.

Although the general understanding of penalties has changed, the main objective was changing the convicted person’s behaviour, the State Audit concluded in its report that society basically pays for the process, not the outcome. Although prisons have tools to help motivate convicts to engage in re-socialization activities, some convicts refuse to engage in any activities, because participation is voluntary.

Statistics show that between 2013 and 2018 the average number of prison convicts in Latvia has declined 35%, but this is mainly related to changes to the criminal penalties policy. The analysis of the compositing of groups in prison, however, paints a different picture. Data shows that in 2018, 55% of convicts in Latvian prisons were recidivists, including that 38% of all convicts were put in prison for the third, fourth or fifth time.

«A person who is released back to society after serving time in prison has to options: becomes a law-abiding citizen or return to prison by committing a new crime,» says State Auditor Elita Krūmiņa.

«Although prisons put some effort into working with convicts, there is no single system to provide assistance to people after they are released from prison. This means re-socialization activities lose any point. At the same time, it is necessary to add improvements to the ways re-socialization results are measured. It is not possible to assess the quality of re-socialization activities and their efficiency because there is no quality data on the effect of re-socialization activities,» admits Krūmiņa.

Formally the system is active and state prisons continue spending dozens of million euros

Results of the audit shows that everything is done formally – there is a re-socialization model based on experience of foreign countries, programmes are developed and ready, Prison Administration and State Probation Service staff are trained and perform their duties as best they can. At the same time, there are four times more prisoners per 100 000 residents in Latvia than there are in Nordic Countries. Most people put in prison commit crimes again.

Read also: With Liepāja Prison construction stalling, minister concedes reopening of old prison

The state spends an average of EUR 41 per prison convict, and, considering wage and price changes in the country, this amount has doubled since 2013.

At the same time, the amount of state compensations for victims of especially serious crimes is on a rise, but not more than one-fifth of expenditures are usually recovered, State Audit has concluded.

There is also no clarity about re-socialization activities and their effect on behaviour of specific people, because ever since the adoption of the re-socialization model, not a single institution has performed a comprehensive analysis of effects. State Audit was also unable to assess the effect on behaviour of convicts during its audit due to shortage of data.

State budget grants to the Prison Administration and State Probation Service in 2018 reached EUR 63.5 million and an additional amount of EUR 2 million from foreign co-financed projects.

Prison infrastructure in a critical state – a major obstacle for successful re-socialization

Adoption of the re-socialization model is closely associated with development of prison infrastructure and re-employment of convicted people.

«Unfortunately, good intentions without funding have remained on paper. Currently those in prisons have no way to avoid prison subculture, and there are no plans to construct new prisons,» State Audit says.

«Currently up to 15 people are held in a single prison cell. In such an environment there are ‘rules of criminal authority’, which either delay re-socialization efforts or reduce their effect,» authors of the audit explain.

Prison infrastructure in critical state also does not benefit any interest businesses may have about creating jobs under re-socialization activities. The current number of businesses engaged in creating jobs is around 12%, which is a very low index, the audit concluded.

It was planned to finish construction of a new prison in 2018, but the government has decided to postpone plans until 2022. Meanwhile, the old and outdated prison infrastructure requires increasing maintenance funds – in 2018 Prison Administration spend EUR 2.2 million on repairs. In the future, however, this amount may increase to EUR 13 million, State Audit reports.

Re-socialization process requires more involvement from state and municipal institutions

Between 2013 and 2018, an average of 60% of convicts held in Latvia’s prisons has different mental problems. Approximately 85% of all convicts suffer from drug or alcohol addiction. Prison Administration and State Probation Service lack specialists to work with people suffering from mental disorders and addiction problems, the audit concludes.

State Audit believes successful re-socialization requires involvement from other state and municipal institutions who are supposed to resolve existing problems.

«Every year an average of 2 500 people are released from prison. However, we cannot say Latvia has a functional re-socialization system because there is a shortage of a very important step – return of a convicted person to society after release from prison,» admits SA.

In situations when convicts released from prison receive no support from family members and have no finances for food and no home, these people can turn to the municipality, authors of the audit explain.

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